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Donella Meadows Whole Earth Models Systems

Donella Meadows Whole Earth Models Systems

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Published by brisamaritima56
This article is by Donella Meadows and is titled "Whole Earth Models and Systems". It was published in the Summer 1982 edition of *CoEvolution Quarterly*. Still a good introduction to systems theory. Donnella Meadows was one of the co-authors of the Club of Rome reports.
This article is by Donella Meadows and is titled "Whole Earth Models and Systems". It was published in the Summer 1982 edition of *CoEvolution Quarterly*. Still a good introduction to systems theory. Donnella Meadows was one of the co-authors of the Club of Rome reports.

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Published by: brisamaritima56 on Jun 27, 2010
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09/26/2013

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WHOLE
SYSTE
WHOLE
EARTH
MODELS
&
SYSTEMS
by
Donella
H.
Meadows
WANT
to
describe
here
just
one
para-
digm
or
way
oflook-
ing
that
reveals
just
some
aspects
of
reality.
I
donot
believe
it
is
therightor
best
way,
since
I
cannot
settle
on
anyone
way
as
rightorbest.
But
it
is
a
perspective
that
is
unfamiliar
and
thus
revealing
tomostpeople.
And
it
is,
I
believe,
a
useful
way
of
looking
at
some
of
humankind's
mostpersistentproblems
-
hunger,poverty,environmental
degra-
dation,and
war
-
problemsthat
do
not
seem
to
besolvablewhen
lookedatfrom
older
andmore
familiar
viewpoints.
This
paradigmhasmanynames.
I
will
call
it
the
"systems
para-
digm,"knowing
that
theword
systems
has
disparatemeaningsbut
intendingto
clarify
what
I
mean
primarily
through
examples
throughout
thispaper.
I
will
begin
withwhat
might
be
consideredthe
stateof
theart
-
the
seven
complexcomputermodelsofthe
global
systemthat
have
been
constructed
and
documented
so
far.
I
will
describe
howtheworldsystemlooks
whenit
is
seen
from
the
comprehensive
and
sophisticated
viewpointofthosemodels.Then
I
will
backtrack
to
the
very
beginning,
to
whatanyschool-child
can
see
and
know
aboutcomplexsystems
and
to
the
kindsofexamples
I
use
to
teach
systemsthinking.
Havingcom-
pletedthe
introductory
course,
I
will
progress
immediately
to
more
advanced
but
still
com-puter-freesystemsinsightsthat
any
adult
cancarryin
his
or
herhead
to
dealwith
the
persist-ent,system-dependentmalfunc-
tions
of
a
complicatedsociety.And
finally
I
will
comeback
to
an
overview
of
the
entire
planetand
speculate
onhow
it
would
be
differentif
more
of
its
inhabitants
saw
it
from
a
systems
pointof
view.
TheGlobe
as
Seen
throughComputer
Models
To
mostpeopletheword
systems
implies
massive
com-
puterscontaining
vast
arrays
of
information
about
everythingthere
is
to
know.
But
the
first
well-known
computer
simulationon
a
global,
long-term
scale
was
in
fact
relativelysimple.
It
was
publishedonly
about
tenyears
ago
by
M.l.T.'sJay
Forrester.i
Since
then
seven
other
widely
recognized"global"models
have
been
completed,
with
at
least
20more
still
under
develop-
ment.
Sore
major
characteris-ticsofthe
completed
models
are
summarized
in
Figure
1.
As
you
can
see,
global
models
have
beenmade
in
manyparts
of
the
world,
using
manydifferenttechniques,
to
answer
quite
differentquestions.
Evenwith
a
computer
a
modeler
is
severely
limited
in
the
amount
of
infor-
mation
that
heorshe
can
include,andeach
of
these
models
contains
only
a
fraction
ofwhat
is
knownabout
the
world.
Most
of
them
focuson
1.
Jay
W.
Iorrcstcr,
World
Dynamics,
MITPress,
Cambridge,
Massachu-
setts,
1971.
To
my
surprise
t
appears
that
systemsand
computer
modelinglore
is
moving
rapidlybeyond
smart
toward
wise.
A
coauthor
of
the
famed
The
Limitsto
Growth
(withDennis
Meadows
and
Jay
Forrester),
DanaMeadows
gave
this
paper
at
an
education
andenvironmentconferenceinBudapest.Hungary.
in
November1980.
Site
updated
the
material
for
CQ
and
at
our
requestexpanded
the
systems-perversitiessection
atthe
end.
For
still
further
expansion
see
her
new
book
Gropingn
the
Dark(The
First
Decade
of
GlobalModeling),
coauthored
with
John
Richardsonand
GerhartBruckmann;$29.50
postpaid
from
John
Wiley
and
Sons,One
Wiley
Drive,
Somerset,
NJ
08873.
The
Meadows
family
worksa
small
farm
near
Dartmouth
College,
New
Hlampshire,
where
they
also
teach.-Stewart
Brand
317
THE
CoEVOLUTION
QUARTERLYSUMMER
1912
98
I
 
*
About
one-fifth
of
the complete
diagram
of
a
computer-model
of
the world.
This
one,
from
Forrester's
World
Dynamics,
shows
negative
loops
which adjust
population
levels
to
the
maximum
number
of
people
who
can
survive
their
own
pollution.
Figure
1
CHARACTERISTICS
OF
GLOBAL
COMPUTER
MODELS
Model
Institution
Where
Major
Modeling
Basic
Problem
Principal
References
.-
ConstructedTechnique
Focus
Massachusetts
Institute
of
Technology
(USA)
WIM
(World
Integrated
Model)LatinAmerican
World
Model
MOIRA
(Model
of
InternationalRelations
in
Agriculture)
SARUM
(Systems
Analysis
Research
Unit
Model)
FUGI
(Future
of
Global
Interdependence)
United
NationsWorld
Model
Case
Western
University
(USA)
and
Technical University,
Hannover
(Federal
Republic
of
Germany)
Fundacion
Bariloche
(Argentina)
Free
University
of
Amsterdam
and
Agricultural
University
ofWageningen
(Netherlands)Departmentof
the
Environment
(U.K.)
Tokyo'University,
Soka University
(Japan)
New
York
University
Brandeis
University
(USA)System
dynamics
Multilevel
hierarchical
systems
theory,
com-ponents
includesimulation,
input-output,
econometrics
Optimization
Econometrics,
optimization
Simulation,
system
dynamics,
econometrics
Input/output,
econometrics
Input/output
Thepattern
of
approach
of the
growing
population
and
economy
to
thelimited
physicalcarrying
capacity
of
the
planet
Global interdepen-
dence,
population
and
economic
growth,
resource
depletionMaximization
ofbasichuman
needs,
improvement
of
quality
of
life
of
thepoorWorld food
trade
patterns,policies
to
eliminate
hunger
Consequences
of
and
stresses
on
economicdevelopmentCo-development
of
industrial
and
industrializing
economies
Effect of
develop-
ment
policies
on
equity
and
the
environment.
Forrester,
World
Dynamics,
MIT
Press,
1971.
Meadows
et
al..
The
Limits
to
Growth,
Universe
Books,
1972.
Meadows et
al.,
TheDynamics
of
Growth
in
a
Finite
World,
MIT
Press,
1974.Mesarovic
&
Pestel,
Mankind
at
the
Turning
Point,
Dutton,
1974.Herrera et
al.,
Catas-
trophe
or
New
Society?,
International
Develop-
ment
Research
Centre,
1976.Buringh
et
al.,
Compu-
tation
of
the Absolute
Maximum
Food
Pro-
duction
of
the
World,
Wageningen,
1975.
Linnemann
et
al.,
MOIRA
-
Model
of
International
Relations
in
Agriculture,
North-
Holland,
1979.
Roberts
et
al.,
SARUM
76
-
Global
Modelling
Project,
UK
Depart-
ments
of Environment
and
Transport,
1977.
Kaya et
al.,
Future
of
Global Interdependence
IIASA,
197k
Leontief
et
al.,
The
Future
of
the
World
Economy,
Oxford,
1977.
All-UnionInstitute
for
System Studies
(USSR)
Wissenschaftszentrum
Berlin
(Federal
Republicof
Germany)
GLOBUS
Effect
of
social
and
political
factors
on
globaldevelopment
International
relations,trade,
and
conflict
(still
in
progress)
(still
in
progress)
BOX
428 SAUSALITO
CA
94966
398
"99
World
2
World
3
 
economic factors,population,
and
agricultural production.
Only
two of
the
seven
contain
any
mention of
resources
or
the
environment.
None
say
anything
about
war,
politics,
new
ideas,
ornatural
disasters.
Most
assume
either
that
technology
does
not
change
or
that
it
changes
auto-
matically,
exponentially,
and
withoutcost,
to
allow
more
and
moreto
be
produced from
less
and
less.
Some of
themodelsrepresent the
world
as
a
single
unit,
others
divide
it
into
10
to
15
regionsor
as
many
as
106
separate nations.
Some
runinto
the
future
as
far
as
the
year2100,others
only
to
1985.Several,
especially
the
first ones,have been highly
controversial,
and
some
of
thelater models
were
madeexpressly
to
refute
orimprove
upon
earlier ones.
I
am
introducingyou
to
these
models
to
make
severalbasic
points
that
are
often
misun-
derstoodby
a
public
that
is
either
too
easily awed
or
too
easily
cynical
about computertechnologies.
I
The
models
are
highly
diverse.
They were made by
people
with
different political
and
cultural persuasions
and
all
are
extremely
biased,
but
in
very
different
ways.
There
is
no
such
thing
as
an
"objec-
tive"
socioeconomicmodel.
2
Simultaneously,
the
models
are
tremendously
compli-cated in
what they
represent
(detailed
population
age
structures,
multiple econom-
ic
sectors, complextrade
patterns,
variousincome
classes)
and
surprisinglysimplistic
in
whattheyomit(armaments,capital
age
structures,
nearly
all
values,
motivations,
social
norms,political
structures,the
sources
and
sinks
of
most
material
flows).
3
No
model
is
(oris claimed tobe)
a
predictive
tool.
At
best
each
one
is
a
very
explicitmathematicalrenderingofsomeone's
view
of
the
world,tied down
as
much
as
possiblewith
statistical
data,
logically
consistent, and able toproduce
statements
of this
sort:
"If
all
these assumptions
are
correct,complete,
and
extended
into
thefuture,
100
The
modelersthemselves,
who
generally
started
out
hostile
and
critical
of
oneanother,
have
been
surprised
at
the extent
to
which
their
conclusions
overlapped.
then
the
logical
consequences
will
be..."
To
me
these models
are
instruc-
tive
not
singly
but
as
a
set.
Al-
though
they
were
made
by
people
of
different
continents
and
ideologies,
the nature
of
the
exerciseforced
thosepeople
to
a
similar and not-very-ordi-nary
viewing
point.
All
were
looking
at
the
globe
as
a
wholeand
at
the
relatively
long-termimplicationsof the
interconnect-
ingweb
of
population,
capital,and
economic
production
that
links
all
nations.
All
were im-
mersed in
the
global
statistics
and had
to
construct
a
model
that
capturedthe
global
situa-tion
with
fullness
andconsist-ency
-
every seller
must
have
a
buyer,
every
birth
musteventu-
allybe
matchedby
a
death,onceproductive
capital
is
inplace
it
cannot shift its
purpose
from
a
tractor
factory
to
a
hospital.
Despite many differences
in
emphasis
and
detail,
viewing
the
closed
system somehow
pro-
duced some
basic
findings
that
are
common
to
every
one
of
the
models.Themodelers
them-
selves,
who
generally
started
out
hostile
and
critical
of
one
another,
have
beensurprised
at
the
extent
to
which
their
conclu-sions overlapped.
The
following
statements
would
be
agreed
upon, I
believe,
by
everyone
involvedin global
modeling
so
far:
2
1
There
is
noknown
physical
or
technical reason
whybasicneeds
cannot
be
sup-
plied
for
all
the
world'speople
into
the
foreseeable
future.
These needs are not
2.
The
list
is
akenfrom Groping
in
the
Dark:
The
First
Decade
of
Global
Modeling,
Donella
Meadows
et
al.,
Editors
(1982; $26.95
postpaid fromJohn
Wiley
and Sons,
1
Wiley
Drive,
Somerset,
NJ
08873).
beingmetnow because
of
socialand political
struc-tures,
values,
norms,
and
world
views,
not
because
of
physical scarcities.
2
Population
and physical(material) capital
cannot
grow
forever on
a
finiteplanet.
3
There
is,
quite
simply, no
reliable and
complete infor-mationabout
the
degree
towhich
the earth's
physical
environment
can
absorb
and
meet
the
needs
of
further
growth
in
population,
capital, and
the
things
thatthis population
will
generate.There
is a
great deal of
partial
information,
which
optimists
readoptimisticallyand pessimists
read
pessimistically.4
Continuing
"business-as-
usual"policies
through thenext
few
decades
will
not
lead
to
a
desirable
future-or
even
to
meeting
basic
human
needs.
It
will
result
in
an
increasing
gap
between
the
rich
and
the poor,
problems with resourceavailabilityand environ-
mental destruction,
and
worsening economic
conditions.
5
Because
of
these difficulties,
continuing current trends
is
not
a
likely
future
course.
Over
the nextthree
decades
the
worldsocioeconomicsystem
will be in
a
periodof
transition
to
some
statethat
will
be
not
only
quantita-
tively
but
also
qualitatively
different
from
the
present.
6
Theexact
nature
of this
future state,
and
whether
it
will
be
better
or
worse
than
the
present,
is
not
predeter-
mined,
but
is
a
function
of
THE
CoEVOLUTION
QUARTERLYSUMMER
I2

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